Gophers vs. Bowling Green

11 a.m. Saturday, Huntington Bank Stadium, ESPNU (100.3-FM)

Line: Gophers by 31

Coming off a productive trip to the Rocky Mountains that included a 30-0 win over Colorado, the Gophers are back at Huntington Bank Stadium to face Bowling Green on Homecoming in their final nonconference game of the regular season. Minnesota enters the game as a 31-point favorite.

Three big story lines

A tune-up before Big Ten play resumes

The Gophers are 2-1 and begin a stretch of six games in which they should be favored: Oct. 2 at Purdue, a bye week, then Nebraska (home), Maryland (home), Northwestern (road) and Illinois (home). Win those games, and the stakes get higher in November.

Looking for another shutout

The Gophers defense was dominant at Colorado, holding the Buffaloes to 63 total yards and six first downs. The shutout was the Gophers' first since 2006, their first over a Power Five opponent since 2004 and their first on the road against a Power Five opponent since 1977.

Will the special teams be special again?

After a strong start this season, Minnesota's special teams will try to rebound from a performance at Colorado that saw kicker Matthew Trickett miss a 24-yard field-goal attempt, clank a PAT off an upright, and miss a 46-yard kick. Punter Mark Crawford also shanked a 30-yard punt.

Two key matchups

Gophers CBs Coney Durr, Terell Smith vs. Bowling Green QB Matt McDonald

McDonald, a senior, is completing 71.4% of his passes, good for a tie for 15th nationally, and is the Falcons' main offensive threat. His main target is junior WR Austin Osborne, a transfer from Washington who has 21 catches for153 yards. Durr and Smith are coming off solid games against Colorado.

Gophers DL vs. Bowling Green RB Terion Stewart

Stewart, a redshirt freshman, has started all three games this season and is tied for the team lead with 19 carries, producing 41 yards. He needs to provide some semblance of a running threat so the Gophers defensive line, which produced four sacks last week, doesn't tee off on McDonald.

One stat that matters

71 Players on Bowling Green's roster that graduated high school in either 2020 or 2021, third most in the nation. That youth will meet a veteran Minnesota squad.

The Gophers will win if …

They run the ball with their usual efficiency, put some pressure on McDonald and knock his completion percentage down a few pegs and avoid the turnovers and/or special teams gaffes that give underdogs hope.

The Falcons will win if …

Minnesota doesn't come out focused, they block their third punt of the season and score on it and they force a couple of more turnovers. Otherwise, the Falcons are in for a long afternoon.

Prediction

Gophers 41, Bowling Green 7